Karan Johar is a creator of worlds. Like J K Rowling, George R R Martin and Gurmeet Ram Rahim. Even though Mr. Johar’s world is populated by what seems to be homo-sapiens, in that they live, breathe, drink, eat, attempt to fornicate and occasionally die in order to resolve a story perfectly (leaving behind letters for an over-precocious child to read), it is very obviously a reality that is not quite ours. In the Johar universe, poverty does not exist even for poets and singers, people travel in personal jets, live in chic lofts in Paris and London with designer furniture, body-fat has melted away instead of the icecaps , the government provides everyone the latest fashions to wear , people do not converse but mushaaira through life, and men and women may lose their marbles occasionally and start thumping themselves on the chest with a flower-pot, but none of that affects their perfect make-up, not an even terminal illness can do that.
There is only one source of conflict in this reality, only one problem that world has not solved.
What is love? What is friendship?
It is obviously a world that provides enduring joy and sustenance to many, as the crores that Karan Johar’s movies have made for his investors will attest to, as well as the multi-star reviews of his latest movie “Aae Dil Hai Mushkil”, not to speak of how many times his tropes have been recycled by other movie directors in Bollywood, and found its way to every bestselling romance that crowds the displays of your neighborhood book store.
In that respect, Karan Johar is, without doubt, one of the most influential artists of his generation.
Which brings me to me.
There was a time when I would enjoy Karan Johar movies. I would accept the conventions of the world, as I do dragons in Game of Thrones and spells in Harry Potter, and go along with the ride, and some of it would be enjoyable, funny, and sometimes even mildly poignant.
“Ae Dil Hai Mushkil” though is none of the above.
It’s deadly boring. And irredeemably muddled.
There is a lot of love, of course, but most of it is of Karan Johar’s ek-tarfa love for his own work, and the works of those of KJo-wannabes like Imtiaz Ali and Ayan Mukherji. Ae Dil Hai Mushkil is a pastiche of other movies, as if Mr. Johar is doing plastic surgery, cutting off a scrap off flesh from the butt of his world and putting it on the chest, and what comes out at the end is a derivative re-assembly of everything you have seen before.
Only when your heart is broken, can you produce true music. Friendship subsumes love. There is someone for you. You can have sex with many but make love to only person. Love is madness. Friendship is peace. You only feel possessive about the one you love. Live every moment as if its your last.
Like little refrigerator magnets, these little maxims are arranged together and re-arranged again, to make three hours of “Ae Dil Hai Mushkil”, and if that sounds horrible, it is.
Now make no mistake. I like Ranbir Kapoor. I like him as Rocket Singh, he has screen presence and star-quality, but there is only so much replaying of the character from “Rockstar” that one can take. Anoushka Sharma is out-performed by Aishwarya Rai, and if that sounds like sufficient reason for the UN to step in on the grounds of a humanitarian crisis, it very well is. And yes, for the ultra-nationalists and the MNSs, you should be thanking Karan Johar for casting Fawad Khan in ADHM. By giving Fawad Khan, an actor of undeniable ability, a role that even Rahul Roy would refuse to do, in terms of its irrelevance and general monochromaticity, Karan Johar has launched a savage surgical strike on our neighbor’s pool of talent, one that neither the Pakistani establishment nor their friends in the Indian media, can deny, caught as it is on film.
Summing up, there is nothing here you haven’t seen before.
And what’s worse, everything you have seen before, you have seen it better.